Defensive groupings: Early change to sub

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the areas that will be charted throughout the season is the New England Patriots' defensive breakdown between their sub and base packages. This can highlight player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of each game.

Last Sunday against the Steelers, what stood out was how the defensive groupings changed after the fourth series, when the Patriots were up 14-0. At that point, the Steelers went with a more receiver-heavy approach, which in turn put the Patriots in their sub packages for the remainder of the game.

That was a big change because through four series, the Patriots had been in their base defense for 12 snaps, their sub packages for nine snaps and the short-yardage package for two snaps. The Steelers had bigger groupings early in the game, sometimes using a sixth offensive lineman, so the Patriots countered in their base.

But after the fourth series, it was zero snaps in base, 52 snaps in sub and zero snaps in short yardage.

Overall, here are the numbers for the season (includes penalties):

Sub defense: 454 of 667 snaps

Base defense: 199 of 667 snaps

Short-yardage: 14 of 667 snaps

With the Patriots spending 68 percent of their snaps in sub this season, it highlights the value of No. 5 and No. 6 defensive back such as Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan, as compared to a third linebacker.